Senior coach Trent Cooper has laid down the challenge to Fremantle’s 2021 AFLW draft class, stating that all six players have the potential to play in round one if they deliver this pre-season.
Cooper said Freo lucked out in the draft by going for the best talent available and landing a group of players that also filled the needs required to balance the list.
Freo selected versatile key position player Amy Franklin at no.14, midfielder Dana East at no.31, small forward Makaela Tuhakaraina at no.38, outside midfielder Airlie Runnells at no.44, midfielder/defender Jess Low at no.52 and forward/ruck Sarah Wielstra at no.57.
The Club’s six selections was the most at the draft, alongside North Melbourne and GWS – showing that Freo were further investing in youth.
“We were really happy with the result and the six players we’ve picked up. We said earlier on, we were going to go for the best talent available,” Cooper said.
“It happened to fall our way that we have ended up with a really balanced list out of the draft. That’s been really pleasing for us."
Cooper said that expectations were higher of younger players in the AFLW, with the upcoming generation having more time and resources to develop than those in the early AFLW seasons.
“We were the fourth-youngest list in the AFLW last year and I dare say we might be younger this year,” Cooper said.
“It’s a bit different to the men’s space, (in the AFLW) the young players coming in can make a real impact straight away.
“We think that’s the case, that all six of these players we’ve picked up, would be capable of playing in our round one side…we won’t have to put them on ice and develop them for two or three years.
“It’s great that we can have them for the future but it’s definitely not ruining our chances if they feature in round one.”
While Fremantle have almost exclusively drafted from WA in their five previous drafts, Cooper said country Victorian Airlie Runnalls made it worth breaking with tradition.
“We definitely want a focus on WA talent and reward the pathway but Airlie was too good to overlook when we saw her,” Cooper said.
“Her running capability is something that really appealed to us and there wasn’t anyone really like her available in the WA pool at the time in the draft with the skills that she’s got as well.
“We touched base with Airlie and she was more than happy to make the sea change to Western Australia. She’s from country Victoria, Yarrawonga (on the Victoria / NSW border) and would have had to move to the city anyway, so another move wasn’t too big a stretch for her.
“She’s really excited about joining Freo and also coming to WA, it’s an exciting phase in her life.”
MEET THE SIX DRAFTEES
Amy Franklin (pick no.14)
Cooper: “To get a key position player that is as athletic as Amy Franklin, and is just as versatile with our first pick was really pleasing and we think she can be a really good player. She’s also a great character as well so we’re stoked to get her.”
Dana East (pick no.31)
Cooper: “East is an inside mid, a former state basketballer who’s new to football and her upside is massive. Her competitiveness and work ethic is second to none. We’re really looking forward to seeing her develop.”
Makaela Tuhakaraina (pick no.38)
Cooper: “Makaela has an X-factor that few players have. She’s got unbelievable speed and sidestep and is from a rugby background. She’s only been on the pathway this year and we think she can provide a lot of forward pressure as well. We’re really excited to have her on board.”
Airlie Runnalls (pick no.44)
Cooper: “Airlie is a player who we think can play straight away. Obviously she’s from Victoria but we saw her play and she accumulates, she gets really high possession numbers, including 32 and 33 in her last two games for North Melbourne VFLW. That’s something we can definitely do with and she uses the ball really well.”
Jess Low (pick no.52)
Cooper: “We’ve been following Jess for a couple of years. She was close to being drafted last year and she stepped up her game for Claremont in the WAFLW this year. She’s someone who can play in multiple positions, she played really well as a midfielder this year but can also play down back.”
Sarah Wielstra (pick no.57)
Cooper: “Sarah Wielstra gives us a balance up forward and in the ruck that we really need. Mim Strom has had to do a lot of the rucking all on her own in the past two years and Sarah is a really competent ruck but also a good lead-up forward. She gives us that list balance that we’re after at that point in the draft.”